I went shopping the other day and used my dictionary to find the Chinese word for 'organic'.  Much to my surprise it is 有机 (yǒujī).  


Now, I thought I was pretty clear on the uses of both 有 and 机.  The former means "to have" or "there is".  The latter always seems to appear with machine words like 手机 (phone) or 飞机 (airplane).  


So can someone please help explain to me how "has machine" can mean 'organic'?  I'm thoroughly confused....

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It's just a  proper noun...


It doesn't seem to be a transliteration. Considering that a lot of other transliterations (音譯) sound much more like the thing being translated. I could be wrong, but I did but I did find that it makes a bit more sense by first looking at : “机体" meaning an organism (along with 有机体). A Chinese 字典/词典 that I found used this to describe “有机”


"Originally refers to organisms, or things with a chemical compound, presented in carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, carbonate, carbonate salt, or other carbides, and other carbon compounds."

That stuff is a little technical, but I think it is best to think of organic "有机", not as to have machine, but rather, consisting of an organism "机体”。Like Organic Chemistry “有机化学". 

Right on Jacob! And it may be helpful to consider that 機 is "organ" in the sense of "something that makes it possible for something else to happen." The root meaning is "loom," the kind that one weaves on. 

Thanks, Jacob!  This seems quite logical.  In this case, however, can't nearly all food be described as 有机?  

I guess it's the same in English. When we say organic we actually impose on the word more meaning than the textbook definition.  We mean PURELY organic or free from anything synthetic, not simply foods containing carbon.  

So that leads me to ask the question, when I ask for 有机 food in China, am I really getting food that is entirely free of synthetic material?  Is there any sort of certification in China for truly organic foods?  

I also think organic (有机 you3 ji2) is the transliteration directly from the term "organic" in English, but it doesn't have the exact pronunciation as it's English counterpart has. Still it is a good translation. For the meaning of you3 ji1, 有 you3 is more simple, it is a verb means to have. Etymologically speaking, the formation of the character 機 (traditional character for 机)(noun) consists two parts - 木  and 幾 and it is a pictophonetic word. In Chinese we call pictophonetic word as 形声字 xing2 (shape) sheng1 (sound) zi4 (character). 木 (trees) suggests the meaning, while 幾 (ji) provides the sound. There are two phrases called 机会 (ji1 hui4, opportunity) and 机能 (ji1 neng2, function). So, 有机 you3 ji2 two words imply "have more opportunity and function (for developing a healthy body)" just like trees do to offer the world the essential source -- oxygen to breathe in, so the living beings can grow better naturally; and that is what organic food does -- giving natural nutrients without pesticide and artificial chemical , albeit the price is a bit higher.

It is interesting to know what you3 ji1 means, the answer can be many with all kinds of possibilities. It is like interpretation of poems, intriguing and full of imagination too:)

Taiwan has truly organic food; as for China, it might have, but I don't know for sure.


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